Book Review: Last Things by Jacqueline West

************

Title: Last Things
Author: Jacqueline West
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

************

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Amazon // The Book Depository // Indiebound

************

Last Things
Jacqueline West
Greenwillow Books, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-287506-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When strange things start happening to local music idol Anders Thorson, everyone blames his number-one-fan, Thea. But is she out to hurt him? Or protect him?

High school senior Anders Thorson is unusually gifted. His band, Last Things, is legendary in their northern Minnesota hometown. With guitar skills that would amaze even if he weren’t only eighteen, Anders is the focus of head-turning admiration. And Thea Malcom, a newcomer to the insular town, is one of his admirers. Thea seems to turn up everywhere Anders goes: gigs at the local coffeehouse, guitar lessons, even in the woods near Anders’s home.

When strange things start happening to Anders—including the disappearance of his beloved cat, then his sort-of girlfriend, and, somehow, his musical talent—blame immediately falls on Thea. But is she trying to hurt him? Or save him? Can he trust a girl who doesn’t seem to know the difference between dreams and reality? And how much are they both willing to compromise to get what they want?

As Last Things opens, we’re thrust into a world in which there are malignant entities waiting to take advantage of humans’ weaknesses but those same humans are unaware of the hidden dangers. Most humans, that is; Thea and her aunt are “sensitive” to such things but then we have to wonder, what are their motivations? Are they on the side of evil or do they hope to protect the other townspeople?

In particular, Thea’s behavior with regards to Anders raises many questions but Anders has secrets of his own, secrets that are eating away at his soul. After all, his explosive musical charisma is undoubtedly unusual but it may be due to an honest talent that surpasses the norm. Then again, perhaps he had a little help.

Thea’s obsessive interest in Anders seems a bit stalkerish at first but, when bad things start to happen, Thea and Anders are drawn almost inexorably to each other. What we don’t know is whether this is a good thing or not and Ms. West keeps us guessing—and, in my case, angsting about it—for quite a long ways into the story. This is by no means a complaint as I appreciate a creepy vibe in a thriller that won’t let me put the book down and the whole question of good versus evil is always a terrific hook. Most of all, I know I don’t want to go into those woods 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

About the Author

Jacqueline West is the author of the NYT-bestselling middle grade series The Books of Elsewhere, the YA novel Dreamers Often Lie, and the new middle grade fantasy The Collectors.

She is also the author of two poetry collections, Cherma and Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions, and her poetry and short fiction appear in a variety of publications.

She lives in Red Wing, Minnesota, with her family.

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Goodreads

 

************

Follow the tour here.

************

GIVEAWAY

Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of LAST THINGS
by Jacqueline West (US Only)

Starts: April 29th 2019

Ends: May 12th 2019

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger

Desolation Mountain
Cork O’Connor Mystery #17
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-4746-3
Hardcover

Stephen O‘Connor, Cork O’Connor’s young son, has always had visions presaging tragedies.  This novel is based on one in which he sees an eagle shot from the sky and a menace he can’t identify at his back.  And then a plane carrying a U.S. Senator and her family crashes on Desolation Mountain.  Cork and Stephen subsequently join others attempting to find survivors and clues.

Soon, some of the first responders go missing, and father and son begin to investigate.  Then Cork inadvertently meets Bo Thorson, a character from a long ago novel, then a secret service agent, now a private investigator.  They join forces, but soon Cork begins to doubt Bo’s role.  The area is overrun with representatives of various federal agencies and is cordoned off.

The plot centers on the meaning of the vision and solution of the cause of the crash.  This is the 18th novel in the series, and provides, for the first time, a deeper look into Cork and Stephen’s relationship.  As is a constant in the series, it is well-written, and the descriptions of the North Country graphic and excellent.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2018.

Book Review: Sulfur Springs by William Kent Krueger

Sulfur Springs
Cork O’Connor Mystery Series #16
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, August 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5011-4734-0
Hardcover

Krueger has become a spectacular writer. You can see his development if you read his entire output. His observational skills have always been first rate and his ability to refine and shape those skills to serve the story only get better. And unlike a few writers today, he hasn’t resorted to the use of formulaic plots and characters or settings, merely to meet another deadline.

Sulfur Springs also demonstrates the author’s willingness to explore new horizons for Corcoran O’Conner, ex-sheriff of Tamarack County in northern Minnesota. Now married to Native American Rainy Bisonette, and retired from regular law enforcement, Cork and Rainy’s life is upturned when Rainy’s son, Peter, leaves a garbled telephone message that provides only a sense of deep trouble in the hot Arizona desert.

Cork and Rainy travel immediately to southern Arizona where they discover Peter’s whereabouts are a mystery and the people of Sulfur Springs and surrounding towns are either lying or not talking at all. The story is complex and heavily peopled by many players, none of whom seem to be what they are on the surface. As they traverse the many layers of relationships, Cork is disturbed to learn there are parts of the life of his new wife of which he is completely ignorant. It disturbs him and part of the fabric of the story deals with his efforts and needs to resolve the questions arising in Rainy’s background.

As the couple persists in tracing her son, more and danger pivots to focus on them and the people around them. The novel works on several levels, as has become common in Krueger novels. The resolutions, legal, psychological and personal, while many and varied, are carefully handled. This is an eminently satisfying novel with a penetrating mystery at its heart.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Spirits of Pepin by Barbara Deese

Spirits of Pepin
A No Ordinary Women Mystery #4
Barbara Deese
North Star Press of Saint Cloud, Inc., September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68201-032-7
Trade Paperback

Another adventure in the lives of No Ordinary Women, an interesting and varied book club of readers in Minnesota. Their insatiable curiosity is not limited to literature. And because they frequently read crime fiction, the five women who make up this group, often turn their collective gaze on odd and unusual events.

On a warm summer day, Louise, Robin, Cate, Grace and Foxy, set forth on Louise’s cabin cruiser for a day of relaxation on Lake Pepin, a long significant widening of the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Embarking from Red Wing, the group motors into the northern reaches of Lake Pepin. Soon the weather threatens and they turn for the Minnesota shore and a leisurely return to the area near their marina.

In the near distance, Robin spots a sail boat moving erratically. It appears no one is at the helm. Moving to help, Louise maneuvers her craft to the sailboat and she and one of the women move to board the sailboat, only to discover a body lying on the cockpit deck. And thus begins the mystery.

Spirits of Pepin adeptly blends the real and the spirit worlds. Two of the women are sensitive to unseen forces and questions immediately arise. Who is the dead man? Why was he alone—if he was—on the boat? Why are dark forces surrounding the No Ordinary Women and what happened in the hours and days preceding this death?

The solution to the mystery involves a long and leisurely look at two families and the lives and talents of the five protagonists. For that reason, this mystery will appeal more to the thoughtful, comfortable mystery reader than to those on the action and violence-oriented reader.

The physical world of Red Wing and the upper reaches of Lake Pepin are well described and the relationships between the women logically characterized.

The careful consideration of numerous lives and relationships and the swirling unseen presence of the undeniable spirits that reside near Lake Pepin, adds up to an enjoyable reading experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Deacon’s Demise by Dean L. Hovey

The Deacon’s Demise  
A Pine County Mystery #5
Dean L. Hovey
Dean Hovey, November 2015
ISBN: 97819382062
Trade Paperback

This is the fifth episode in Dean Hovey’s series of Pine County mysteries. His cast is made up of members of the Sheriff’s unit, with assistance from various local residents and other law enforcement agencies, as needed. The pace is steady, the development of the plot is logical and anyone with even passing familiarity of the Upper Midwest, will recognize and identify the characters.

The story centers around the efforts of a Pine County deputy sheriff to figure out a motive and identify a killer. The killer or killers caused the sudden death of a pillar of Pine Brook, Minnesota, the owner of the local hardware store and a long-time deacon of a local church. George Brown was an upright—some might say uptight—member of the community. He was upset that his church had begun to serve a far-away congregation in Mexico. Youth from the church were spending a lot of time south of the border building a church and George was unhappy. One evening, after again expressing his distrust and anger at the project, he left a deacon’s meeting to drive home. When he started the engine, his car blew up, damaging the church, injuring several members, and, of course, killing George.

Floyd Swenson, deputy sheriff is tasked to figure out who planted the bomb in Brown’s car and why. Early on, he learns that some children are being kidnapped from nearby towns and in neighboring states. There appears to be no connection, and Floyd is over his head with developments in the Brown bombing. But before long, several threads begin to tangle themselves in the Pine County case and the pace picks up dramatically.

The story is well-thought out and constructed, the dialogue is appropriate and the actions of the several characters make sense.

There are some typos, abrupt and unnecessary changes in points of view, and I wish a more readable type face had been chosen. That being said, I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to everyone interested in reading about good small-town characters engaged in solving local crimes, leading to a very satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 3

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

 

Deep Cover Jack
The Hunt for Reacher Series #7
Diane Capri
AugustBooks, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-940768-70-0
Trade Paperback

If you’ve never tried any of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, you need to read at least one before you tackle this series because this is all about the “other side” of the equation, the law enforcement folks who think they need to apprehend Reacher because he’s such a horrible person, a desperately wanted man. Well…our FBI Special Agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar have learned a few things by the time we get to this seventh book and they’ve picked up a little help along the way from other interested parties but they haven’t yet caught the man. Will they this time when they head for Houston? Hmm…if you know Jack, you know their chances are on the slim side but will they at least get close?

This is an intriguing, entertaining companion to the Jack Reacher series and, yes, Lee Child himself speaks highly of it. Oh, and before you think these must be the most incompetent agents ever if they’ve been chasing him through seven books, think again. Try it, you’ll like it 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stalking Jack the Ripper
Stalking Jack the Ripper Series #1
Kerri Maniscalco
jimmy patterson, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-316-27349-7
Hardcover

As you might surmise from the name of the publisher, this is “presented” by the megawatt author James Patterson himself and, if I do say so, this is a good ‘un. Audrey Rose Wadsworth loves to spend time in her uncle’s lab learning medical stuff but gets drawn into a serious criminal investigation, that of the gory deaths of some women of ill repute. With the assistance of Thomas Cresswell, apprentice to her uncle, Audrey Rose really wants to get justice for these poor women as well as bring a killer to justice but the stakes get even higher when the long arm of the law reaches out to someone close to her.

I like the Victorian era, young adult mysteries and the Jack the Ripper case (plus I love the cover) so trying this was a no brainer for me. Mounting clues and hair-raising theories lead to a horrifying discovery but, throughout it all, Audrey Rose maintains her intelligent, thoughtful focus even if she can’t be completely objective. The next case for this young lady and the charming if annoying Thomas, Hunting Prince Dracula, involves another string of killings while Audrey Rose studies forensic medicine in Romania and I can hardly wait to dive in.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

March of Crime
A Murder-By-Month Mystery #11
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5263-1
Trade Paperback

This cozy series has been fun and frothy since the beginning and I continue to like them a lot, especially because they never seem to get stale, if you know what I mean. They have plenty of humor along with tension and Mira Ross might as well be called the Jessica Fletcher of Battle Lake, Minnesota, since people seem to drop like flies in her vicinity. No wonder this mild-mannered librarian has aspirations of being a private eye!

One thing that intrigues me about cozies is the myriad ways authors find to present a dead body without offending sensibilities and I think Ms. Lourey has outdone herself and everyone else this time. Lifesize dolls are kind of creepy anyway (to me at least) but when one turns out to be an actual corpse sitting proudly right next to Mira, well I ask you, how could she NOT want to snoop? Mira and her assorted crew of cronies and nemeses are soon hot on one trail or another and I chortled all the way to the end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Enemy Within
Scott Burn
Scott Burn, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-9978429-1-3
Trade Paperback

There have been people throughout history who have had visions of the future, some believable, many more not so much, but I had to have a lot of sympathy for the 17-year-old Max who has been seeing hellfire and damnation at the apparent end of the world. In his situation, I’m not sure I wouldn’t at least consider his way of ending these horrific sights that just won’t stop but one thing that would prevent me from  doing such a drastic thing is my own suspicion that I’d bungle it. And he does, landing himself in an institution.

Three other boys have found each other but know that they’re missing one and can’t do what they’re supposed to do without him. Who are they? Suffice it to say, there’s a new unclaimed satellite in orbit and things are about to get very unsettling for us and for our survival on this planet.

This was such a fun story with aliens and other cool science fiction-y stuff. Technically speaking, this is Young Adult but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good apocalyptic story full of adventure and mayhem, not to mention some pretty appealing characters. I hope we’ll see more of Max before too long.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan
Scribner, June 2017
ISBN 978-1501116841
Hardcover
Narrated by Madeleine Maby
Simon & Schuster Audio, June 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

As a former bookstore owner, I naturally had to read this and, while I enjoyed it, I also had some reservations. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is a strange sort of place, attracting some rather odd people called the BookFrogs, some of whom seem to spend all their waking hours just hanging out, rarely buying anything. And, since Lydia Smith was Joey Molina’s favorite bookseller, you have to wonder why he would commit suicide in the bookstore, leaving his supposed favorite to find him.

But so he does and he leaves all his worldly goods to Lydia leading her to puzzle over certain things that pique her curiosity, not only because she thought Joey was a nice young man but also because she seems to have an odd connection to this mystery, a connection that takes her back to a most unpleasant murder-tainted past.

The ebook of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore grabbed my attention despite my initial reluctance and I decided I wanted to try listening to the tale. Narrator Madeleine Maby has a pleasing tone with identifiable vocalizations and I do think the audio edition helped evoke emotions a bit more easily than the written version. Bottomline, while the rampant dysfunction in these characters’ lives made me somewhat unsettled, the mystery itself was engaging.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Book Review: Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt—and a Giveaway!

Shadow Girl
An Afton Tangler Thriller #2
Gerry Schmitt
Berkley, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-425-28178-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The brutal murder of a business tycoon leaves Afton Tangler and the Twin Cities reeling, but that’s just the beginning of a gruesome crime spree…
 
Leland Odin made his fortune launching a home shopping network, but his millions can’t save his life. On the list for a transplant, the ailing businessman sees all hope lost when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky.
 
Now with two pilots dead and dozens injured, Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawn into the case. As she and her partner investigate family members and business associates, whoever wants Leland dead strikes again—and succeeds—in a brazen hospital room attack.
 
The supposedly squeaky clean millionaire has crossed the wrong person—and she’s not finished exacting her revenge. The case explodes into an international conspiracy of unbridled greed and violence. And as Afton gets closer to unearthing the mastermind behind it, she gets closer to becoming collateral damage…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I read the first Afton Tangler book, Little Girl Gone, last fall, I was impressed with the seeming ease —except I’m sure it wasn’t easy—with which Gerry Schmitt made the transition from her Laura Childs persona. I know authors try their hands at different genres and subgenres all the time but, in my opinion, they don’t always succeed. For the most part, I thought Ms. Schmitt did what she set out to do and I have been waiting ever since to see if her second book would be as good; I have to say I think it is.

The emotional hook of a kidnapped baby isn’t here this time but destroying a donated organ has its own brand of pathos, not to mention the apparent disregard for the lives of the innocent pilots. Someone clearly hates the intended recipient, Leland Odin, enough to go to dramatic lengths to kill him and they don’t care about collateral damage. Afton and her partner and mentor, Detective Max Montgomery, are first on the scene of what everyone thinks is a helicopter crash and are immediately involved in the investigation into the crash…and the human heart that landed in a dorm room.

The reader knows from the beginning who did this horrific thing but not why so we’re only a half-step ahead of Afton and Max but there were times I wanted to say, “Look at that!” or “Stop! Think about this!” I don’t often talk to characters and don’t know why I did this time but I suspect it was because I like these two a lot and Ms. Schmitt had me on the edge quite a bit. Anyway, by the time they suddenly figure out who, my nerves were pretty well shot. On the other hand, I took a tiny measure of satisfaction in egging Afton on as she went after her own brand of personal revenge, even if it wasn’t proper protocol.

Once again, Max and Afton prove to be a partnership meant to be and I’m very glad that Chief Thacker continues to recognize Afton’s potential as an aspiring detective. She inevitably makes mistakes because she hasn’t had all the training or experience and, naturally, she becomes a target but Afton is a smart woman and learns from her missteps. Shadow Girl is a tale full of stops and starts, much like most investigations, along with assaults, abductions, a cast of international players and a little dog with the heart of a lion; what more could I ask for?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt,
just leave a comment below. The winning
names will be drawn on Wednesday night,
  September 6th, for one Advance Reading Copy
and one finished hardcover copy. This
drawing is open
to the US and Canada.